The delicate aroma and flavour of summer strawberries is something to savour, and normally no accompaniment more than a dollop of cream is necessary to set them off to a tea. There is the odd occasion, however, when a fancier take is required, and this is where a delicious strawberry tart can come into its own.
Pâté sucrée is the most elegant pastry choice. It is crisp, thin and sweet and adds both flavour and texture to the dish. Just remember to chill it for a long time before baking it if you don’t want it to collapse in the hot oven.
If you can’t be bothered with the fuss of packing perfect patisserie-standard pastry, stick with rich shortcrust. If it’s good enough for the likes of Nigel Slater and Rosemary Shrager, it is probably good enough for you.
There are recipes for good shortcrust pastry all over the internet so you can choose the one you like most. One of the most popular, however, is the one found on the Delia Online website, which calls this humble pastry one of the best there is and even has a video showing you how it should be made.
A traditional tarte aux fraises is filled with a layer of vanilla crème patissière, which is a custard thickened with cornflour. A take on this vanilla custard theme can be found on the BBC’s website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/strawberry_and_custard_56738. Beware of overpowering the fruit if your custard is too sweet, just as you should be wary when using chocolate ganache or lemon curd. Lighter-tasting choices include yoghurt and sweetened double cream or sugar and reduced-fat cream cheese.
Just as different food recipes invariably feature twists according to individual tastes, such as those found at http://food-tales.com/, there are things you can do with your strawberries instead of just halving them and placing them on top of your tart.
You could make pink peppercorn and strawberry jam to sit at the bottom of your tart or soak your berries in honey and rose wine. Of course, if you’re a purist, you might be against using anything more than the fruit itself, and given the deliciousness of plump, juicy strawberries at this time of the year, it is hard to disagree.